For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
May 29, 2008
Press Gaggle by Dana Perino
Aboard Air Force One
En route Olathe, Kansas
12:02 P.M. EDT
MS. PERINO: Good morning. I don't have a lot to start off. He obviously had the meeting this morning with the President of the Mormon Church and had about -- I guess it lasted almost an hour. He hadn't met this President before -- I think that was the President's fourth visit -- and they had an hour-long visit. Topics ranged on issues everywhere from the President's dad, Bush '41 -- the current President of the Mormon Church knows President Bush '41 and Mrs. Barbara Bush very well, so they talked a little bit about that. But also talked about foreign policy issues, Middle East peace, domestic issues ranging from the economy and energy, and then a little bit about what the President will do afterwards. So they had a good visit.
And now we're on our way to Kansas, where the President will do a fundraiser for Nick Jordan, who is running for office in -- I think it's the 3rd district of Kansas.
Q Dana, I wanted to ask you, I know you don't want to go line-by-line with the whole book thing, the Scott McClellan book -- but I'm thinking you may want to address this because there's something out there. Not having the benefit of having the book in front of me, there's an allegation apparently made by Scott in the book that a reporter shouted a question to the President, on a trip that Scott had been with him on, just as they were getting on Air Force One, and it was Valerie Plame-related. Basically, it prompted Scott to ask the President directly, "Were you the one who authorized the leaking of Valerie Plame's name?" And the President apparently told Scott, "Yes, I was."
MS. PERINO: I don't know. Obviously I wasn't there and -- obviously I don't know the context. I think the -- it's hard for me to say. I don't have the book in front of me either and I don't know.
But what I do know is that what we have said before, which is defending the President's decision to go to war is something that we have done repeatedly, and the suggestion that the President had sent Joe Wilson to Africa was false. And so I don't know if that was what it was in regards to or not, so I'm -- I don't know.
Q But I mean, if that's an allegation that's out there, that the President is supposedly responsible for the leaking of Valerie Plame's name, is that something you want to --
MS. PERINO: I don't think that's what Scott says in the book and I think that everyone should go back and look at it a little bit more carefully. I don't think that's what he says.
Q Can you comment more generally about whether the President has ever authorized the leaking of classified information?
MS. PERINO: I'm not aware of that, no. And I also know that President Bush would never ask anyone to knowingly go out and lie. But do we defend the President's record vigorously? Yes, you bet we do. And I think -- parts of the book that suggest that there was propaganda or -- you know, I just don't know how substantiated that is in the book. I would ask to -- you know, where, when, how, specifically? What are you talking about, were there charts, were there et cetera that you thought were lies? And I don't think that he's saying that either. So I just question the accounts.
Q Can you just give us any sense of what the President has been saying to the donors in these closed-door sessions? Just a general sense of his, kind of, message that he's talking about in the various fundraisers he has?
MS. PERINO: About John McCain?
Q John McCain or just more generally.
MS. PERINO: I would submit to you that whether it's closed press or open press for the fundraisers you've been to, the message is very similar: about Republicans and the issues that we stand for, the importance of national security, the importance of keeping taxes low for the economy, the compassionate conservatism types of things.
People are interested about what it's like to be President; he talks a little bit about what it's been like to be President. Oftentimes he'll give sort of a visual tour of the Oval Office, describe that. Sometimes he talks about significant moments in his presidency. You've heard him talk a little bit about that time he gave a speech in Bucharest when the rainbow came out. That's a story that he likes to tell to audiences and I think it helps them understand.
He also likes to remind people when we talk about the global war on terror how it's an ideological struggle, it will take a long time, but that he believes in the power of freedom and liberty. And if you remember the story about how he, as the son of George H.W. Bush who fought against the Japanese -- I know that you all have heard it a lot, but I'm telling you something, people like to hear this message and it's important. People can understand it and people can then understand when the President talks about 60 years from now what we could be enjoying in terms of democracy and freedom and liberty and justice in the Middle East. That's where the President takes a little bit of a look back at history and then talks about the reasons for why we have to stand strong and committed.
Q And what does he say about John McCain, in particular?
MS. PERINO: That he thinks he is the best person to be President. That he stands strong for what he believes in. That he fully understands the global war on terror, and keeping America safe. And that he has the experience necessary to be able to walk in and from day one be a fantastic Commander-in-Chief and leader of the freest nation in the world.
Q Does he answer questions usually? Do people --
MS. PERINO: No, not recently. But it depends. Sometimes he will; but the past few, no. We've obviously been on a pretty tight schedule.
Q Can I ask you one other question on the Mormon Church -- did the leaders have any specific religious concerns or things that they want to raise with the President?
MS. PERINO: No. No. They talked a little bit about how their church is growing around the world and -- but they didn't talk about anything specifically religious. They did say that they do pray for the President, they support the presidency, and [are] a very patriotic people. But they didn't talk about any specific thing in terms of their church and their needs, no.
Q I think you said they talked a little bit about what the President plans to do next. Anything to announce there, other than looking forward to going back to Texas?
MS. PERINO: No, nothing more to announce. But I think you've heard the President talk before about his plans to have a library and he's a little bit thinking about that -- sort of on the margins. He doesn't have a lot of time to think about it. There are people who are thinking about that for him. But he's interested and I think that -- one thing that I think I was asked last week: And what is the President -- is he upset or is he concerned because he's not going to be President next January?
And the truth is that he doesn't wish for something that's not possible. He thinks the two term system is a really good one and that new fresh eyes and fresh energy is important for our country; and that the peaceful transfer of power that we've been able to establish in our country is a good model for the rest of the world; and that he is excited about continuing to spread the message of freedom and liberty long after he's President.
So I think he's thinking forward just a little bit and looking towards the time when they do go back to Texas.
Q This is the fourth time he's met with the leaders of the Church?
MS. PERINO: Yes.
Q On the two congressional fundraisers on this trip, was it the White House's decision or the candidate's decisions for them to be closed? Do you know?
MS. PERINO: I don't know.
Q Do you have anything on --
MS. PERINO: I'm sorry -- but if the location is a private residence, then the practice is that they're closed.
Q Do you have anything on the Governor of New York's decision to recognize gay marriages from other states?
MS. PERINO: I saw a brief report about it. I don't know a lot about the decision. I think that I would go back to that the President believes that we should try to make this decision based on a nationwide agreement for the what the definition of a marriage should be, and that activist judges and different states trying to impose something of that importance on the rest of the nation is to be looked at skeptically.
Q Is there any particular concern, though, about the legal implications of states beginning to recognize other states' rights, in other words?
MS. PERINO: Yes, I'm sure that there is, but again I briefly saw the reports and I would refer you -- let me see if I can get something from the Justice Department -- I'm sure there's going to be a lot of people who analyze the legal ramifications of it. I think the President's point is that judges shouldn't be making these decisions; the people should be making these decisions.
Q Just one question on Israel -- you had the Defense Minister call for Olmert's resignation this week. What is your sense of the political viability right now of the government? Is the President still thinking that things are on track for his peace plan?
MS. PERINO: Well, there's no doubt that it obviously takes up some oxygen when you're trying to deal with intense and complex negotiations with the whole of the Middle East, but especially in the Palestinian Territories and Israel. But the President believes that Israeli politics is something that Israelis are going to have to deal with. And setting that aside he believes that the people who are in the government -- in the Palestinian Territories and the Israelis now recognize that in order for both to have a state that is democratic and free, that a Palestinian state needs to be defined. And that's the goal that we're reaching towards for the end of the year.
Q Is he going to meet with Olmert next week when Olmert is in Washington?
MS. PERINO: I believe so. I don't have a specific schedule, but I believe so.
Q Thank you.
END 12:52 P.M. EDT